So God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.
Part 2, Evicted From Paradise, Gen. 3
As I said last time, the moment I saw Eve (my name for the woman the Lord had given me) I fell deeply and hopelessly in love. It was a pure and innocent love, absolutely unconditional, like no other emotion the Lord has ever given us. It made me light in the head and weak in the knees. I never wanted to spend even a moment apart from her.
One day while we were walking leisurely in the Garden we wandered near the two trees in its middle. The Lord had warned us about these trees, and with good reason. The first was the Tree of Life. Eat from its fruit and receive eternal life. The second was the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. Eat from its fruit and know as God knows the blessings of Good and the curse of Evil. If you’ll allow me a moment of reflection, it seems that every form of religion in our world begins at one of these two trees. Some religions teach us of the joys of eternal life and encourage us to attain it, to eat from the fruit of the Tree of Life, while others teach us to become our own god, by becoming as good as He is (perfect), and by knowing what He knows, the full measure of good and evil. Promising someone they can become just like God is a powerful incentive, as you’ll see in a few minutes, and many religions today do just that.
But our Lord knew we weren’t capable of receiving the fullness of this knowledge, that like an incurable disease it would contaminate and eventually destroy us. He knew that the insidious nature of evil would overpower our sense of good and cause us to become evil, unfit for fellowship with Him and worthy only of destruction. He gave us explicit instruction not to eat the fruit of this tree.
So why did He even put such a tree in the Garden? Our Creator loved us, but desired love from us as well, and that required that we have a choice. The only really meaningful love is that which one gives freely and willingly. If we could only do what he asked, then we’d have no choice but to love and obey Him, and our love wouldn’t be worth anything. We’d be little more than slaves or robots. So He created us with free agency, with the ability to love or hate, to obey or disobey, to live or die. And He gave us only one rule; don’t eat from that tree. Out of His love, He demonstrated the blessings that came from obeying His rule, giving us everything we could possibly ask for, but only warned us against the consequences of disobedience, not wanting to see us in pain.
So there we were, walking together through the Garden. Like all of God’s creatures we wore no clothes but felt no embarrassment or shame. (It’s still that way for every animal but man. In all of God’s creation only we feel the need to cover ourselves in public.) I was free to gaze lovingly upon the beautiful form of my beloved as she was free to admire me. It was like studying a fine work of art, only so much more, and I spent hours loving her this way, thanking the Lord for giving her to me.
When we came to the center of the Garden and the two trees, the one you call The Serpent was there. His name comes from a root meaning “enchanter” and that’s just what he was. Approaching Eve he spoke with reason and logic, convincing her that God had lied and was just trying to keep her in her place, inferior to Him. He persuaded Eve that not only would she not die from eating the forbidden fruit, but that it looked and tasted good, and was beneficial for gaining wisdom, the wisdom of God. As I said, it was a powerful incentive, and he made it sound so good. I was right there with her and for the life of me don’t know why I didn’t stop her. I just know that all of a sudden she had eaten some and was immediately and irrevocably changed. She had broken our only rule and nothing would ever be the same again.
I had two choices. Walk away and leave my beloved forever, or stay with her and try to get us out of this awful mess. It wasn’t a hard choice; I couldn’t bear the thought of living with out her. I loved her so much it seemed better to join her in mortality than miss her for eternity. So I took the piece of fruit she offered me and at once felt that awful feeling in the pit of my stomach. This was a huge mistake. I knew it as soon as I looked at her. I was embarrassed to be naked and to see her that way. We quickly grabbed some leaves and fashioned coverings for ourselves. Then we went and hid from God.
Of course He knew what we had done and soon found us. For the first time in my life I lied to God (I was doing a lot of things differently now) and tried to blame Him by blaming Eve. He gave her to me after all. Eve blamed the Serpent, but we all got punished. The serpent didn’t have a leg to stand on (literally) and God declared war on him, declaring that an offspring of Eve’s would make him pay dearly. We didn’t know it then, but God was referring to the Messiah Who would be a descendent of Eve’s. The way He described the Messiah as her offspring, not ours, hinted at Messiah’s virgin birth. Eve and I were banished from the Garden, our little piece of Heaven on Earth gone. From now on I would have to work hard every day to earn our living and Eve would remember every time we had a child the pain we had caused God. Even the Earth would be cursed, producing thorns and thistles and other plants that weren’t fit for us to eat.
But worst of all, God had been right. We were now mortal, subject to death. Disease and aging came into the world at that point, a consequence of sin. Having been banished from the Garden, we could no longer eat from the Tree of Life. Sinners cannot achieve eternal life. But even here, God’s grace was evident. Those very thorns and thistles, unfit for eating, contained antidotes and cures for the diseases our disobedience had produced. They wouldn’t make us immortal, but they could ease our pain and discomfort along the way. The first incidence of judgment restrained by an unmerited favor.
Our Lord didn’t take away our shame at being naked either, instead using it to teach us another lesson. He removed our hastily assembled leafy coverings and made clothing for us using animal skins, showing us that our guilt would not be absolved by the works of our own hands, but by the shedding of innocent blood. What later became known as the Levitical system of animal sacrifice began there.
As we left the garden, we watched while the Lord stationed powerful angels there to guard the way back to the Tree of Life and had an altar built at its entrance so we could sacrifice the innocent animals whose blood would temporarily set aside our sins until the Messiah came to redeem us once and for all, and lead us back into the Garden forever. Next time … Life after death, learning to live with mortality.